A Car Girl Buys An Automatic Pumpkin Spice Latte

Ever since my childhood, the BMW brand has been part of my life. I vividly remember my dad’s excitement when brought his first BMW home. Owning one of Bavaria’s Motor Werks had been a lifelong dream of his, and his pride in accomplishing it was worn transparently on his face.

I was 12 at the time and naively said, “Daddy, is it a sports car?”

He gently smiled and said, “No, this is a performance car.”

I’ve never forgotten that moment, not even now that he’s on BMW number eight.

When I was 15, Dad took me to the BMW Museum in Munich, and I distinctly remember watching him, a grown-up kid in a candy store. I learned how to drive stick on his second 3-series. He only drives manual BMWs and I always swore I would do the same, just like my dad. And for my 20th birthday, the old man took me to Spartanburg, South Carolina, for some daddy-daughter bonding at the BMW Center Driving School.

What else does BMW mean to me?

  • M power—and the time my dad made one of his employees take me for a ride in the 5th E46 M3 in our area. Imagine my excitement when Mr. Peters pulled over and told me I could drive the rest of the way
  • Straight 6
  • Rear wheel drive
  • Manual transmission
  • Agile
  • 50/50 weight distribution
  • Naturally aspirated
  • A driver’s car

Well, I recently bought my BMW number eight, and it’s not any of these things. It’s a 2014 BMW 320i xDrive in Basic Bitch White with leatherette—a vehicle of circumstance, not passion.

As my biggest fan, Mark Baruth, said, “What led somebody who loves cars to buy one of the most hated cars in recent history?” He also said:

“How could you?”

“Shame!”

“I’m disappointed in you.”

“Did it come with a pair of UGGs?”

How, how could I let this happen? Throw out the list above and reset your expectations. This is not the BMW that my father and I fell in love with. In fact, it’s unapologetically everything that my Z4M isn’t.

Rewind to a few weeks ago. I was on the hunt for a new daily. On average I drive about 175 miles per day, I live in hell—AKA New England— so I need heated seats, I want to look professional pulling up to clients, and I have two large dogs. It should be noted that I don’t keep a work car for more than six months. So that means I need a pre-owned sedan or SUV with AWD/4×4, leather,  and it can’t bend me over in front of every gas station. My last work car was a Lexus IS250 AWD, which was pretty perfect. With a budget of $15,000, the BMW 320i is essentially a nicer and newer version of that L wagon. It has a softer ride (80mm profile tires), gets better mileage, has an equally unintuitive navigation system, and a more comfortable seat. Other cars that I had considered:

  • Ford Fusion SE AWD
  • Ford Exploder XLT 4×4 with leather
  • Honda Accord EX-L
  • A brief moment of weakness when I came upon a one owner 2007 325xi manual wagon with navigation, sport pack, cold weather pack, and premium pack (real BMW people are probably screaming right now)

After several test drives the 320i was a clear winner. It came in under budget and had fewer miles than the other cars I looked at. What can I say? Sometimes you want that sporty German ride and analog everything. Other times you just want to feel like you’re in a Toyota Camry, without looking like you’re in a Toyota Camry.

It’s Camry time.

26 Replies to “A Car Girl Buys An Automatic Pumpkin Spice Latte”

  1. AvatarRonnie Schreiber

    I want to look professional pulling up to clients, and I have two large dogs. It should be noted that I don’t keep a work car for more than six months.

    Why the quick turnover? Is it because of the wear & tear of putting almost 1,000 miles a week on the cars? I doubt six months matters in terms of professional image when the car is already 5 years old.

    Reply
  2. AvatarDirt Roads

    I can’t remember a time when I kept a car for less than 6 months! Then again, I don’t drive them to clients; my work cars are part of a fleet at the office. They’re all newer and nicer than anything I currently own.

    You seem pretty happy with the car, and that’s the most important part. 🙂

    Reply
    • Avatargtem

      I did the 6 month shuffle for the last 3 years and had a lot of fun, albeit this was with full depreciated $2000 beaters. Winter:FWD/AWD sedan, Summer: RWD stick shift Ranger for home and garden projects. Selling the sedans during spring tax-return time yielded fast full asking price sales. Most annoying thing was the trips to the BMV and I’m sure my insurance agent thought I was nuts.

      Reply
  3. AvatarCJinSD

    When BMWs stopped being any of the things that made them interesting, I stopped buying BMWs. I could tell you all the father-son stories about a 1984 trip to a huge BMW-Alpina dealership in Siegen, West Germany, about his first BMW, about my first BMW, about a reckless driving arrest on a hiking trip in the Blue Ridge that his secretary read about in her local paper, about believing they were working towards realizing a vision of practical driving perfection throughout their Quandt history. It doesn’t matter. There was always a struggle within the company between people who wanted to mimic Mercedes model-for-model and people who wanted to build BMWs. The first group won, and they did so at a time when Mercedes-Benz lost its way. Reunification killed the West German character that once made BMW and Mercedes-Benz great. It would be a better world if people had possessed the self control and self respect to stop buying their cars when Chris Bangle first muttered the words, “active ergonomics.”

    Reply
  4. AvatarE. Bryant

    At this point, I’m simply happy when anyone buys something other than an boring crossover (even when an boring crossover might be the right choice, as I imagine is the case with two large dogs).

    Soon, sedan owners will be join van and station wagon owners as outcasts of society whose only crime is driving the appropriate vehicle for the task. OK, van owners are usually committing several other crimes as well. The point still remains the same.

    Reply
  5. Avatarrambo furum

    Heated seats must have some exclusive appeal to women. I have had frozen extremities, but butt, back and thighs really don’t suffer much. Then again, I wear a coat and pants in winter.

    Reply
      • Avatargtem

        I used to poke fun at guys that insisted on heated seats, my wife was nuts about them as are most women it seems. Then we bought our Chrysler van with heated seats…and steering wheel. Oh boy am I spoiled now, especially after these polar vortexes. The steering wheel in particular with how quickly it gets really warm, and how effective it is at feeling warmth through your hands (think of standing in front of a fire holding your hands out).

        Reply
        • Avatareverybodyhatesscott

          I never minded the non heated seats when I had cloth interior. Now that I have some faux leather interior, I enjoy them. I’d rather have the cloth interior back though.

          Reply
          • Tom KlockauTom Klockau

            I once owned a real oddball, a 2006 Volvo V50 2.4i with heated cloth seats. I’ve never seen another one.

          • AvatarCompaq Deskpro

            My Mom’s 2017 Fiesta has cloth heated seats. We both hate them, it feels like I pissed myself.

    • AvatarHarry

      When I had heated seats and steering wheel in my Allroad. By the first january I was so spoiled I felt actual anger when I touched my unheated shift knob .

      Reply
      • AvatarRJ

        My Power Wagon (2016) came with a fairly comprehensive package that included cloth seats with heat (heated wheel, too). It’s nice, but apparently calibrated for somewhere much further north than NC–I have to shut the wheel heater down after about 2 minutes or it becomes uncomfortably hot! I like cloth seats, which I once recall being desirable, and also fondly remember leather seats that were actually from a mammal, and not some species of Nauga.

        Reply
    • AvatarDirty Dingus McGee

      My solution for the heated/non heated seat issue is; Live where they would only be useful 20-30 days a year. 🙂 However, when I travel to the frozen tundra, anywhere north of Tennessee, they ARE handy tho.,

      My first encounter with heated equipment was on a BMW motorcycle 25 years ago that had/has heated handgrips. At first I wasn’t to sure about them, but after riding in temps below 40 I became a convert. I have since added heated riding gear and am quite comfortable in temps into the low 20’s.

      Reply
    • AvatarS2k Chris

      Heated seats do have some special appeal to women, my wife really loves hers every 28 days or so.

      Kinda like how having male parts makes me more appreciative of ventilated seats.

      Reply
      • Avatarhank chinaski

        Heh. I went through the trouble of personally adding aftermarket heating elements to my ride, not wanting to cough up for the bundled geegaws and nannies I would have had to endure to get them. Top down in 40F is very doable.

        I’m not a BMW person, but I’ll give a ‘harrumph’ for passing up the wagon.

        Bark, it’s not the Uggs, it’s the leggings that go with. Hrrrmmmmm.

        Reply
  6. AvatarJohn C.

    What car to get when one likes sports sedans, needs a luxury sedan, but has a budget for an economy sedan. A depressing if common question. Any high end brand must hate to be part of that decision tree and makers of modern compacts must wonder why people don’t realize how good their cars have become.

    Reply
  7. AvatarI COME IN PEACE

    Tonight at 11…..Woman buys a car because BMW….

    This reads like a purchase-justification post on some BMW enthusiast forum, way way underwhelming based on the usual spicy content I come here to read.

    Congrats on buying a car? Okay ZzzzzZZzz. Man, I am in a troll-y mood lately.

    Reply
  8. Avatarjcain

    I was also a small-time BMW loyalist (E92 335i/E93 M3/M235i, all with Euro-Delivery) but when I got my own “vehicle of non-passion” last year I went for an Audi A4. For my commute on crappy roads in LA I didn’t want the ride comfort or cost penalties that come with an M-car, and once you get down to something like a 330i the F30 doesn’t offer anything really compelling over the Audi. It didn’t help that they effectively eliminated the Euro-Delivery discount – would have been easier to justify an M3 if the lease payment had been comparable to that of my old M3.

    Reply
  9. AvatarShortest Circuit

    It’s pretty old wisdom, but a 320i [Touring] (or 20d if you have too much money) would be a perfect car for 90% of the population. This is the bread-and-butter car of BMW, they sell the most of the 3-series – it is a good car, it looks decent, fits 2 child seats, and with a petrol engine it is reliable.

    Would I recommend to buy one? No. Because most all of the things listed were “rationalized” out of it since the E46 (inline 6 + NA, manual gear change, and that agility, yeah, ummm) – also I noticed my younger cohorts don’t subscribe to this antiquated notion that you should arrive in style (was that Packard? or Lincoln?) they seem quite happy just driving a ‘cool car’, like a Veloster or a GT86.

    I have an Z4 E86 (which is lacking in agility thanks to that awful power steering) and will be test driving a Sup… I mean Z4, hopefully in March. I expect that I will like it, but 95% sure I’m not putting cash down until the proper variant (coupe) shows up.

    BTW ‘basic bitch white’ is called fleet white.

    Reply
  10. AvatarMike

    I bang 100 miles a day on my car, and, at 41 years old, decided I’d had enough of keeping two beaters in (relatively) functional status to perform said task. My solution was to head on down to my local Mazda dealership and procure a brand new 3 hatch, in Sport trim, zero options, and the 6 speed M/T. Every month my credit union takes $300 out of my savings account to pay for the privilege of doing so, and will do so for (checks payment book) 44 more months now.

    So far, every month, I see that as money well spent. I’m averaging 38 mpg, and the little blue mini-wagon punches well above its weight in just about every category. I flummoxed the driver of a brand new Jaguar crossover just the other day at a 2 lanes into 1 merge, banging it off the rev limiter in second. I’ve driven only RWD cars for my entire life, and this thing rotates better than any of them. Truly a joy.

    For roughly a grand more than the author’s BMW, my plan is to rock the 3 for the next ten years, at which point I’ll either be retired, or at least in such a position that a reliable commuter car won’t be an absolute necessity.

    Reply
  11. Avatarcognoscenti

    You deserve accolades for still buying a CAR, instead of accepting this generation’s version of “Frampton Comes Alive”, the obligatory issued-to-all-ladies Lexus crossover. However, as a BMW driver myself (E90 M3 6MT), I can’t help but encourage you to look at the 10th-Gen Honda Accord next time, in 2.0t with the 10-speed auto. If you just steer clear of the CVT, the new Accord is a gem, and does everything (and I mean EVERYTHING) better than any recent 3-Series does.

    Reply

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